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March 2012

A Ritual Bell on View in Curators' Choice

78_52_3DI2In an earlier post, I wrote about the wonderful glass bell Louis Felix gave to Monitor Lodge in Waltham, Massachusetts.  The object pictured here served the same purpose in Masonic ritual, but is entirely different in materials, mechanism and sound.

You can see this ritual bell, originally used by members of Union Lodge in Dorchester, in Curators’ Choice:  Favorites from the Collection.  From about 1870 or so, lodge members rang this bell to mark a symbolic midnight, or “low twelve,” during a Masonic ritual based on the story of Hiram Abiff’s murder at King Solomon’s Temple.  In one mid-1800s description of the ceremony, the Master approaches the candidate, who lays on the floor, playing the part of the murdered Hiram, and “strikes the hour of low twelve on a triangle or bell...” near the candidate’s head. 

When one of the brothers wanted to sound this bell, he turned the small crank on the side of the wooden base.  The crank is still shiny, burnished by the touch of many fingers.  Each rotation of the crank brought a clapper against the side of the metal gong.  A square and compasses cut from a light-colored wood and fixed to the front of the wooden stand the object had a Masonic purpose.  Ball-shaped brass feet and a decorative pewter finial, now a little bent, lend the object panache. 

In time, the tradition of marking midnight with a bell fell out of fashion in Masonic lodges.  Brothers replaced the striking of a ceremonial bell with twelve notes played on an organ.  Eventually, bells like this one no longer had a place in the lodge.

This bell does not boast a makers’ mark, and we do not have anything else quite like it in the collection.  It may have been crafted by a brother for Union Lodge or it could have been the product of a fraternal supply house.  Without some kind of documentation, it is not possible to say for certain, but we are curious about who made it.  If you know of a similar object or some other kind of “low twelve” bell, please leave us a comment.   

Ritual Bell, ca. 1870. National Heritage Museum, Gift of Union Lodge, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons, Dorchester, Massachusetts, 78.52.3. Museum staff photo.

References:

Malcom C. Duncan, Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor, (New York:  L. Fitzgerald, Publisher), 1866, p. 107.

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of American Freemasons, (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Museum of Our National Heritage), 1994, p. 89.


Deadlines Looming for April 28 Symposium - Register Now!

90_20T1Register now for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Symposium, Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, on Saturday, April 28, 2012.   Discounted hotel rates MUST be booked by MARCH 25, 2012, and the registration deadline is APRIL 14, 2012. 

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present day. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for fresh interpretations of American society and culture.

Seven scholars from the United States, Britain and Belgium will fill the day’s program:

• Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, “The Goatee’s Revenge: A Founding Myth and a Founder’s Cult in American Fraternalism”

• Yoni Appelbaum, Brandeis University, “The Great Brotherhood of Toil: The Knights of Labor as a Fraternal Order”

• Adam G. Kendall, Henry W. Coil Library and Museum, “The Shadow of the Pope: Anti-Catholicism, Freemasonry, and the Knights of Columbus in 1910s California”

• Samuel Biagetti, Columbia University, “A Prehistoric Lodge in Rhode Island? – Masonry and the Messianic Moment”

• Alyce Graham, University of Delaware, “Secrecy and Democracy: Masonic Aprons, 1750-1830”

• Bradley Kime, Brigham Young University, “Masonic Motifs in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

• Kristofer Allerfeldt, Exeter University, “The Significance of Fraternalism in Three Criminal Organizations of Late Nineteenth Century America: The Mollie Maguires, the Ku Klux Klan and the Mafia”

All Symposium attendees are invited to a public lecture by Michael Halleran, Independent Scholar, “Gentlemen of the White Apron: Freemasonry in the American Civil War,” at 1 PM, in the Maxwell Auditorium. This presentation is made possible through the generous support of Ruby W. Linn.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, 33°, N. M. J., U.S.A. Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception. To register, complete the Registration Form and fax to 781-861-9846 or mail to Claudia Roche, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421; registration deadline is APRIL 14, 2012. For more information, contact Claudia Roche at croche@monh.org or 781-457-4142.

ACCOMMODATIONS: A block of hotel rooms has been reserved at Staybridge Suites, 11 Old Concord Road, Burlington, MA, at the discounted rate of $110/studio suite; $120/one-bedroom suite; and $145/two-bedroom suite (taxes not included). To make a reservation, please call 781-221-2233 and mention the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum Symposium. DEADLINE for the discounted rate is MARCH 25, 2012. Limited shuttlebus service will be available between the hotel and the Museum.

Masonic Emblematic Chart, 1840-1850, probably New York, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 90.20.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 


The Christy Girl in World War I Posters

A96_089_08T1JOHoward Chandler Christy (1873-1952) was a well-known American illustrator, famous for his popular depictions of idealized, beautiful women.  During World War I, these so-called "Christy Girls" appeared on various World War I posters.  The poster seen here entitled, "Fight or Buy Bonds," is currently on view in "Fight, Save, Buy, Wake Up!:  World War I Posters" at the National Heritage Museum.

How did this image of the "Christy Girl" evolve?

According to one historian, the first image of a "Christy Girl" appeared in an 1895 issue of The Century magazine.  It was probably while Chirsty was a student at the National Academy of Design in New York that he got the commission. By then he had attended the Art Student League and studied under William Merritt Chase(1849-1916).  Another early image of a "Christy Girl" was published in Scribner's magazine in 1898, entitled, "The Soldier's Dream," and portrayed a beautiful girl.  Some critics claim that this was the first known "Christy Girl" image.

Like the "Gibson Girl," the image of the "Christy Girl" was an idealized vision of American femininity in the 1890s.  This ideal was comprised of high breeding aristocracy, and daintiness.  In addition to magazine illustrations, Christy also illustrated books.  In 1906, both The Christy Girl and The American Girl were published.  These two popular books helped solidify Christy's reputation and spread his idealized image of an American woman. 

By 1915, Christy was in New York working on magazine commissions.  When World War I began, he rallied his talents around the war effort painting posters for government war bonds, the Red Cross, Navy, marines, and civilian volunteer groups.  Among his most popular posters were the "Spirit of America" and "Gee! I Wish I Were a Man I'd Join the Navy."   These two posters feature images of the "Christy Girl" in very different garb.  The Red Cross nurse is - like the woman in the "Fight or Buy Bonds" poster at the top of this post - depicted as a sort of allegorical figure of America robed in Neo-Classical dress.  In contrast, the young woman in the Navy poster is shown wearing a Navy uniform. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Caption:

Fight or Buy Bonds, 1917, Howard Chandler Christy, Printed by the Forbes Company, Boston, National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, Gift of H. Brian Holland, A96/089/06.

 


Our Banner Project!

01_AT_Obverse_NHM_Banner_96.002a-bLast spring, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library received an American Heritage Preservation grant of almost $3,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support conservation treatment and archival storage housing for three fraternal banners in the collection. The Museum was one of only four institutions in Massachusetts to receive an award.

The IMLS grant is particularly important to the Museum & Library because of the nature of its Masonic and fraternal collections. Many of the objects in the Museum’s collection are not widely collected by other history museums, so the staff often has to devise creative solutions to store the objects and to protect them through conservation. Pursuing best practices for our collection and working to conserve and preserve delicate materials are highly prioritized stated goals in our Collections Plan.

By 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States, numbering six million members. Banners were an important component of American fraternal activities. These colorful textiles were used inside lodges and also in public parades and at cornerstone layings and other ceremonies. Photographs and prints from the Museum’s collection show us just how widespread the use of these banners was. An image clipped from a newspaper or magazine around 1868 shows a group of Odd Fellows taking part in a public parade (see below). Their banner is clearly shown in the picture near the center of the group. Many fraternal groups made sure to include their banner when they took formal portraits. For example, a Modern Woodmen of America Axe Drill Team from Kentucky prominently showed off their banner in an early 1900s photograph (see below).96_042_3DS1

The banners that were treated are all double-sided, allowing their respective groups to advertise themselves to audiences in front of and behind them during parades and processions. Two of the banners covered by the grant are from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., the Museum’s parent organization. The third banner was originally used by the fraternal group known as the Journeymen Stonecutters Association. The oldest active union in the United States, the group formally organized in 1853. Members were (and are) working stone cutters and carvers. This particular banner was used by the branch in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It was locally made by the William H. Horstmann Company in Philadelphia, a company that made regalia and props for many American fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s.2003_022_2T1

One of the Scottish Rite banners received much-needed conservation treatment (above left). It showed signs of age, as well as damage from long-term exposure to the environment and stress from gravity. The surface was rippled throughout and the painted sections were worn, with some loss. The banner showed structural damage and staining. The treatment, performed by Windsor Conservation of Dover, Massachusetts, provided conservation cleaning and stabilization of the most critical structural damage. The banner has been surface cleaned, with special attention paid to mitigating the stained areas. Detached fringe trimming on the edges and the detached valance at the top were re-attached. The banner’s decorative tassels were also repaired and stabilized.

01_BT_Obverse_NHM_Banner_98.014The second Scottish Rite banner and the Journeymen Stonecutters banner (at left) - both of which show significant areas of split silk that could only be treated at great cost – have been rehoused in specially-fabricated archival boxes. This archival storage treatment provides a preventive measure for the banners, which were previously stored uncovered on large, heavy pieces of plastic. The banners are now tacked to a padded fabric-covered board that can be used safely for occasional display and for handling. The new storage boxes protect the banners from light damage and the added resting boards prevent the need to move the banners from one flat surface to another, cutting down on the risk of further damage.

We are currently working on plans to exhibit at least one of the banners this coming summer, so please check our website for upcoming details!

Scottish Rite Banner, 1890-1930, American. Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 2011.017. Photograph by Windsor Conservation.

Journeyman Stone Cutters Association of North America Parade Banner, 1891, William H. Horstmann Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gift of Jane Hilburt-Davis in memory of Ellen Vinnacombe Francis, 98.014. Photograph by Windsor Conservation.

Semi-Centennial Celebration of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, ca. 1868, Theodore R. Davis, New York. Museum Purchase, 96.042.3.

Modern Woodmen of America Axe Drill Team 1908-1912, Schroeter Studio, Green River, Kentucky. Museum Purchase, 2003.022.2.  Photograph by David Bohl.


The "John Brown Bell" in Marlborough, MA

MarlboroughBellOn Saturday, March 10 at 2 PM the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Inc. (National Heritage Museum) will be offering a free lecture with Tony Horwitz, author of Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil WarTo learn more about the talk, read our previous blog post about this public program.

The history and story of John Brown abolitionist and militant has captivated audiences for over 150 years. Not only is it a Virginia story but it has a Massachusetts connection. Perhaps the speaker or members of the audience already know about the “John Brown Bell” of Marlborough, Massachusetts.

In the summer of 1861, members of Company I, 13th Massachusetts Volunteers were camped by the Potomac River, near Harpers Ferry. Some of these enlisted men were members of the Marlborough Volunteer Fire Department.  The militia was ordered to cross the river and seize anything of value for the US Government, and diligently searched the arsenal for items that might be of use or profitable. Others had had already been there before and taken anything worth confiscating.

Not wishing to return completely empty-handed, the men entered the engine house at Harpers Ferry that had served as Brown’s headquarters during the raid.  The militia spotted the bell in the engine-house and decided to take it home to Marlborough.  The bell, it was reasoned, could be presented to the city’s Hook and Ladder Company, who found themselves bell-less at the time. 

Was the bell Federal property that should be handed over to the government or was it a war souvenir?

In 1862 the company  did not have sufficient funds to send it home and the on-going military conflicts also  prevented them from getting the bell to Marlborough.

From 1862 to 1892 the bell resided in Williamsport, Maryland. Mrs. George Snyder, a local resident, had kept the bell for the company. In 1892, former members of Company I, now organized in a Grand Army of the Republic chapter, returned to Williamsport and, after finding the bell still in Mrs. Snyder’s possession, raised the necessary money to have the bell shipped to Marlborough.

Over thirty years after its removal in 1861 from the engine-house in Harpers Ferry, the bell was eventually  placed in the “John Brown Bell Tower” in Union Common at the intersection of Main and Bolton Street in Marlborough, Massachusetts, where it resides to this day. To learn more, visit the Marlborough Historical Society website.

Should a bell of such historic importance be located in Harpers Ferry, Marlborough or elsewhere?  We look forward to hearing if Tony Horwitz has something to add on this subject.

Photo credits:

Courtesy of Claudia Roche

 


Hindoo Theology for the Use of Missionaries (A Masonic Cipher)

Hindoo_Theology_for_Missionaries_webWhen I first came across a small 74-page book in our collection called Hindoo Theology for the Use of Missionaries, I knew that I couldn't take the title page at face value.

First of all, the publication information on the title page indicated that it was printed in Rome in 1814. As a librarian who has seen a lot of books printed in the early 19th century, I was sure that this book was not printed that early - and pretty sure it probably wasn't printed in Rome, either. It looked to me like it was more likely to have been printed in the late 19th or early 20th century. Secondly, the book was quite clearly some kind of fraternal ritual cipher book. We have many cipher books in our collection and a few of them - like Magicians' Magic Movements and Ceremonies - have deliberately misleading titles. I suspected that Hindoo Theology was another case of Masons having some fun at disguising ritual books.

It was while I was in touch with Arturo de Hoyos, Grand Archivist of the Scottish Rite's Southern Jurisdiction about another book when he mentioned Hindoo Theology for the Use of Missionaries in passing. He stated that it was a cipher for the rituals of the Royal Arch Chapter for the State of New Jersey. And yet I wanted to know more about this book - and about its odd title.

After sleuthing around a bit more I was able to find a definitive printed source that talked about this little book. In the 1950 Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of New Jersey, there's a report of the Grand Historian, Harold V.B. Voorhis, entitled "The 'Manual' and The 'Hindoo.'" Voorhis was a top-notch Masonic scholar, so I knew that I had found a good resource. Voorhis writes:

Let us now look into the advent and adventure of that Masonic oddity known as the "Hindoo." We have no authentic data concerning the author or authors of the "Hindoo" or when it first saw the light of day. However, it is substantially certain that it appeared shortly after the 1864 Gould "Guide to the Chapter" and was published by [James L.] Gould in Connecticut. Consequently, it is not without normal surmise that Gould was responsible for its production. It is doubtful if the name has any significance - "Hindoo Theology for the Use of Missionaries -- Rome -- 1814." It must have been that he compiled it at the instigation of Companion John Sheville, with whom he collaborated in producing the Manual, because, so far as is known, the "Hindoo" was only used in New Jersey, where Companion Sheville had been Grand High Priest.

Although Voorhis concluded that "Hindoo" was only used in New Jersey, there are clear indications that it was also used in Iowa, as well. The 1896 Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter for the District of Columbia, for example, state that "We observe that in Iowa the Grand Chapter issues and uses the 'Hindoo ritual.'" Looking at various Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Iowa in the 1890s in our library collection indeed turns up numerous uses of the phrases "Hindoo Theology" and "Hindoo ritual." In the 1893 Grand Chapter of Iowa Proceedings it is also noted that the Grand Chapter of Nevada used the ritual and that "some few years ago we supplied the Grand Chapter of Kansas with copies of our Hindoo Theology."

As to why "Hindoo" theology, I'm still not sure. It's possible that this is simply a case of the West exoticizing an unfamiliar Eastern religion - the same kind of Orientalism that gave rise to the Shriners and other Masonic and fraternal groups and degrees that present Eastern cultures and religions through the prism of 19th-century Western viewpoints. If any of our readers have thoughts on other cultural references that may have made "Hindoo Theology" an unsurprising choice of title, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

Hindoo Theology for the Use of Missionaries.
Rome [i.e. Paterson, New Jersey] : [Printed by Mackay Printing Company,] 1814 [i.e. ca. 1890-1902]
Call number: RARE 14.3 .H662